Friday 28 November 2014
Sustainable Development News
Latest sustainable development news from Australia and around the world.
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Energy and Climate Change
UN climate change deal must have legally binding targets, says EU
An international deal on global warming must have legally binding targets, Europe will argue at a UN climate summit in Peru next week. The Lima conference is intended to deliver the first draft of an accord to cut carbon emissions and stave off dangerous climate change, which is expected to be signed at a UN conference in Paris next year. Speaking on condition of anonymity, a senior EU official in Brussels said that the bloc had not abandoned its position that any agreement on emissions cuts needed to be mandatory. “Legally binding mitigation targets are definitely something that the EU is pushing for,” the official said. “This is one of our key asks. We’re yet to be convinced that you could have a sufficient rules-base and certitude by alternative approaches. But it is no secret that some other countries are in a different place.”
Rising seas pose a cultural threat to Australia’s ‘forgotten people’
While you may have heard about the increasing threat that climate change and rising seas pose to Pacific islands — already forcing some communities to move — Australia has its own group of islands that are just as threatened. For communities in the Torres Strait, climate change is not a matter for political debate, but a reality. Around 7,000 people call the Strait home, and they are already exposed to the impacts of climate variability. There are king tides, flooding, and unpredictable weather patterns that impede their everyday lives. In 2012, extreme weather damaged the local graveyard on Saibai island.
Sea levels will rise 30cm around NZ by 2050 – new report
Sea levels will rise 30cm around New Zealand by 2050 and threaten coastal properties and infrastructure in low-lying areas, a new report by Government’s environment watchdog warns. Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment Jan Wright’s report, released this afternoon, says rising oceans caused by a warming atmosphere will have a significant impact on many New Zealanders within their lifetimes. Dr Wright looked at around 200 years of scientific study of sea levels for the peer-reviewed report.
Yes, the U.S. can reduce emissions 80% by 2050 — in 6 graphs
So, I’ve got good news and bad news. The good news: There is no substantial technical or economic barrier that would prevent the U.S. from reducing its greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050, a target that would help put the world on track to limit global average temperature rise to 2 degrees Celsius. In fact, there are multiple pathways to that target, each involving a different mix of technologies. Achieving the goal would cost only around 1 percent of GDP a year out through 2050, and if we started now, we could allow infrastructure to turn over at its natural rate, avoiding stranded assets. The bad news: Pulling it off would require immediate, intelligent, coordinated, vigorously executed policies that sustain themselves over decades. Y’know, like how America does [cough]. These are the conclusions of a new report on U.S. decarbonization from the Deep Decarbonization Pathways Project.
Risk from extreme weather set to rise
Climate change and population growth will hugely increase the risk to people from extreme weather, a report says. The Royal Society warns that the risk of heatwaves to an ageing population will rise about ten-fold by 2090 if greenhouse gases continue to rise. They estimate the risk to individuals from floods will rise more than four-fold and the drought risk will treble. The report’s lead author Prof Georgina Mace said: “This problem is not just about to come… it’s here already.” She told BBC News: “We have to get the mindset that with climate change and population increase we are living in an ever-changing world – and we need much better planning if we hope to cope.”
Renewable energy overtakes nuclear as Scotland’s top power source
Renewable energy in Scotland from wind farms, hydro power plants and other clean technologies provided the single largest source of electricity to the country for the first time, in the first half of 2014, new industry figures will show on Thursday. Analysis by the trade body Scottish Renewables shows that renewables produced nearly one third more power than nuclear, coal or gas in the first six months of the year, generating a record 10.4 terawatt hours (TWh) during the six-month period. The analysis was compiled by comparing Energy Trends data produced by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) on renewable energy output with figures produced by National Grid on coal, gas and nuclear power.
Environment and Biodiversity
Dolphin pod delight onlookers
Dolphins have been entertaining onlookers for several hours just meters off the shore of Little Manly, in North Auckland this morning. The pod of around 10 started attracting attention from 9.30am on the shoreline and scores of people have visited the beach since. Dozens of people got in the water to swim with them. Sarah Champion of Manly spent more than an hour with the pod. “I was driving to work and parked up and felt so annoyed as I had no togs on. So I thought ‘sod it – it’s not every day you get to swim with dolphins’. So I went in my dress,” Champion said. She says the experience was “amazing”. “I’m feeling euphoric. Especially seeing the mum and her baby circling me and diving in and hearing them communicating under the water. One of the best experiences I’ve ever had.”
Indonesia cracks down on deforestation in symbolic u-turn
Indonesia’s reforming new president is to crack down on the rampant deforestation and peatland destruction that has made the nation the world’s third largest emitter of climate-warming carbon dioxide. Joko Widodo signalled the significant change of direction for Indonesia when he joined a local community in Sumatra in damming a canal designed to drain a peat forest. Halting the draining and burning of peatland will also tackle the forest fires which have trebled since 2011 and can pump smoke across the entire region. Indonesia suffers more deforestation than any other country, including Congo and Brazil where new data shows deforestation is dropping. One study estimated 80% of the deforestation in Indonesia was illegal, with most of it being cleared for palm oil and timber plantations.
LNP touts water management laws as ‘economic growth’ stimulator
The Queensland Government says new water management laws will encourage growth in the agriculture and mining sectors. However, environment groups fear the legislation will damage aquifers and the Great Barrier Reef. Under the new laws, mining companies will not need licences to take groundwater and will be exempt from reporting requirements for ‘low-risk’ activities. Mines Minister Andrew Cripps said the laws also increased access to unallocated water in the Great Artesian Basin.
Economy and Business
Financial systems must consider extreme weather, or risk condemning millions to die
It’s extraordinary how the financial markets that pride themselves on their data analysis and forecasting have such a blind spot when it comes to the impacts of climate change. I was reminded of this by a new report released today from the Royal Society, which calls on our global financial systems to start considering the risks posed by extreme weather, or risk condemning millions of people to die. The failure of financial institutions to focus on the dangers comes despite increasing numbers of businesses and other organisations reporting that their operations are being hit by droughts and flooding. In fact, the Royal Society points out that between 1980 and 2004 the total cost of extreme weather came to $1.4tn (£8.8bn), of which just one quarter was insured. By the middle of the century, it is estimated that large coastal cities alone could face combined annual losses of $1tn (£6.3bn) as a result of flooding.
Your Business: Sustainability with Shaun Clouston, Logan Brown
Shaun Clouston is a partner, with Steve Logan, in Wellington-based restaurant Logan Brown, where he’s also head chef. People often ask me what the big food trends are and I think sustainability has to be the main one. The human race isn’t getting any smaller, so everybody has to think about the way they do things. We’ve been on the sustainability journey for a while now. I came back to work at Logan Brown in 2006 and Steve was already pushing for us to become more sustainable then, so we’ve just continued to move along with it. We signed up for the Enviro-Mark programme in 2010, so we’ve been doing that for quite a long time. It feels good to know you’re doing something right. We have a few people who come and work for us, and as they stay they pick up and adjust to our business practices and hopefully they take them with them when they move on.
Responsibly invested assets reach $6.57tn in US
Sustainable, responsible and impact (SRI) investing assets have grown by 76% in the US between 2012 and 2014, a report from the US SIF Foundation, the Forum for Sustainable and Responsible Investment in the US, has revealed. The biennial report – US Sustainable, Responsible and Impact Investing Trends 2014 – found that assets managed with SRI strategies now account for more than one out of every six dollars under professional management in the US. This adds up to $6.57 trillion (£4.17tn), compared to the $3.74 trillion (£2.37tn) counted in 2012.
Waste and the Circular Economy
The surfing companies making waves with sustainable design
What can be done to stop the wave of waste entering our oceans becoming a tsunami of trash? According to campaign group Surfers Against Sewage (SAS) (pdf), at least one thing is clear: we need to build greater producer responsibility across the supply chain and hold principle polluters to account. So what are surfwear companies, so closely reliant on both thriving sales and thriving oceans, doing to set the standard? The OSPAR Commission claims some 8m pieces of litter (pdf) enter the oceans and seas daily. For the UK, this means local authorities spend approximately €18m (£14.2m) (pdf) each year removing beach litter. With the level of marine litter consistently rising year on year, this cost is only set to rise. There’s no one culprit, but it’s undeniable that the rise in single-use plastic – think food packaging, the stuff holding your newspaper supplements together and, of course, the polybag encasing the t-shirt you just ordered online, is a big factor.
Politics and Society
Starting a new business is not the answer for most of the world’s poor
The UK has been named the top performer in Europe when it comes to entrepreneurs and fourth in the world, behind the US, Canada and Australia. Indeed, the top ten best performers are dominated by high-income countries. But what about poorer countries? With the world, at only 52% of its “entrepreneurial capacity”, does starting a business offer a viable route out of poverty for the 73.4m young people worldwide who find themselves out of work today? Entrepreneurship is often given as a simple solution to alleviating poverty, but research shows that it doesn’t offer answers to mass youth unemployment and we must exercise caution in promoting it as a way to do so. The youth unemployment challenge is undoubtedly one of the globe’s most pressing priorities. Unemployment is persistent and increasing and poor quality, informal and subsistence jobs are proliferating. Future forecasts for youth unemployment across all regions look bleak. Young people constitute nearly one-third of the world’s population and their prospects are crucial to their country’s ability to meet their development goals.
People power: citizens tell Melbourne where to go
Put a group of around 40 randomly chosen people in a room and ask them to come up with priorities on spending and revenue strategy for council. What do you get? Sustainability as a key priority; roads and parking spots ripped up for bike lanes; more open space; and increasing rates to pay for it all. Most people would think it sounds like political suicide, but confronted with all the information and access to experts, this is what the average City of Melbourne resident has called for as part of the first People’s Panel on the city’s 10-year financial plan. What’s more surprising is the council has unanimously accepted the document in its entirety, on Tuesday night voting to be embed it as a whole into the city’s draft 10-Year Financial Plan.
Lismore residents ponder rate hike for bio-diversity
Residents in the Lismore area are being asked to put their hands in their pockets for the good of the environment. Ratepayers have been asked to support a rate increase to help pay for the council’s bio-diversity strategy. The hike would generate around $500,000 a year for projects in both urban and rural areas. The council’s ecologist, Theresa Adams, said the environment is one of the key areas the community wants to see improved. “We’re asking the community if they will actually uphold what they said they wanted,” she said. “They wanted us to provide environmental leadership, and then they said they wanted the bio-diversity management strategy. It’s whether they’re actually willing to put their hands in their pockets.”
Engineers Australia commits to a low-carbon future
Engineers Australia has put sustainability and climate change mitigation at the core of the profession, with the formal adoption of two new policies and a series of events on opportunities and challenges of living within our planetary boundaries at its recent 2014 convention. The new sustainability and climate change policies were developed by a working group including incoming national president Dr David Cruikshanks-Boyd, chair of the Sustainable Engineering Society Alice Howe and chair of the College of Environmental Engineering Erik Maranik. The policies were also peer-reviewed by 25 external bodies.